“Will you send my book to the Library of Congress?”

This is a question we often hear from our authors. The answer is yes – unless we misunderstood your question.

Let me explain.

The Library of Congress may be involved in several different aspects of your book’s publication. The first one is the LCCN.

LCCN — The Library of Congress Control Number

Local librarians want to be able to shelve a new book correctly as soon as they receive it. They do not have the time to catalog every single book upon receipt, so they turn to the Library of Congress (LOC) for help. They connect to the library’s database and download the cataloging data that has been prepared by the LOC’s catalogers. To find the data, they use the LCCN that’s printed in your book.

Thus, before your book is published, Wheatmark applies for an LCCN from the Library of Congress. This number is then printed in your book, so that when a librarian needs to know how to shelve it, he or she will be able to look it up in the Library of Congress.

Once your book is published, Wheatmark will send the finished copy to the Library of Congress to be cataloged. The cataloger will check the finished book against the LCCN and prepare the cataloging data for the library’s database. This is when your book really gets cataloged; up till now it’s only had a “control number” (LCCN).

So far, so good.

The problem is that the Library of Congress has a tremendous backlog and so it is likely that when your local librarian receives a copy of your new book, the cataloging data is not yet available for download. To top it off, the LOC does not guarantee that it will catalog every book that it receives.

Fortunately, there is a remedy: advance cataloging-in-publication (CIP) data. We’ll take a look at this tomorrow.